Here’s a fun fact about Noname’s Tiny Desk Concert: It almost didn’t happen. Around the time of their D.C. stop, she (born Fatimah Warner) and her bandmates got their first dose of tour sickness. Thanks to rest, medicine and our mutual excitement, she made her way into the NPR offices the following day. If there ever was a ‘Noname’ way of doing things, this is definitely her signature method. It’s in the way she’s able to muster a smile while performing a heartbreaking tale of abortion. It’s those sometimes bleak, melancholy lyrics over brilliant, colorful production.
These intriguing juxtapositions are what propelled Telefone to our top 50 albums of 2016. She prefaced her performance of “Reality Check” by saying: “I kind of talk in like, scramble-think, so hopefully you guys follow it.” “Scramble-think” refers to the clever metaphors she weaves in detailing the many ways she’s dodged destiny. On “Bye Bye Baby,” she raps:
Somebody let the yellow in
Bye bye blue
I’m gonna fall in love again
These lyrics, their colors, represent the sector she commands in hip-hop today. The yellow: The bright side. (Of course, there’s plenty of gloom and doom to rap about — especially coming from Chicago — but there’s also plenty of light.)
There’s an appropriate moment of silence in the office, before the applause, following her emotional medley. She asked us if we liked it. We loved it — and you likely will too.
- “Diddy Bop”
- Medley (“Reality Check,” “Casket Pretty,” “Bye Bye Baby”)
Noname (vox); Connor Baker (drums); Brian Sanborn (guitar); Phoelix (bass, vox); Akenya Seymour (keys, vox)
Producers: Bobby Carter, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Morgan Noelle Smith, Bronson Arcuri; Production Assistant: A Noah Harrison; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR.
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